Have you heard the expression, “That light at the end of the tunnel might be a train?”  The impact of an unexpected downturn in your business can feel like being hit by a train you didn’t see coming.

Safety or Creativity?

So what do you do? Hunker down and play it safe or find ways to be creative?  It is easy to keep doing what works when times are good.

Out of Your Comfort Zone

In the face of an unexpected setback, your first response may not be stepping out of your comfort zone. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that any experience, good or bad, can lead to creativity if it pushes us outside our normal thought patterns.

If you use this opportunity to think creatively about your business, your team or yourself, how might you ride that train through a downturn and be well-positioned for recovery?

I had a conversation recently with a woman who was chastised by her boss for venturing too far outside her job description. Since she thrives on creativity, she was very discouraged and demotivated.   As she talked more about it, she realized that this attitude is pervasive in her company.  It didn’t take long before she was questioning whether this was the right place for her.

Rules Are Necessary Too

What message are you sending to your team members about staying in their lane?  Of course, in some functions following the rules is required and valued.  Does that mean you don’t want people thinking creatively and trying to come up with better ways of doing things?

It’s a Judgement Call

It could be that you are more comfortable staying in your lane, so it might feel a little threatening for someone on your team to get too far from the norm.  It might be more challenging to motivate people who don’t like to stay in their lane.  At the end of the day, you have to decide what is most valuable to your organization.


People who stray outside their lane often challenge the status quo, which isn’t always a popular position.  Think of the impact of some who did:  Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Gloria Steinem.  Can you afford not to have some nonconformists in your company?